The Sweetwater County Sheriff's Department is warning people about a "Facebook Friend" scam that has been widely reported recently.

According to Sheriff's Department spokesman Dick Blust, the scam begins when someone received a Facebook friend request from someone who is already a Facebook friend. Blust says that while that should be a red flag, many people assume that because they know the person in question, the second friend request must be legitimate as well.

Blust says the truth is that criminals re-create a Facebook profile using an existing Facebook page. They often will copy a profile picture and some of the 'about" information to make the fake profile believable.

By getting friend request approved, they have access to useful information for scammers, such as where they live, their birthday and other details that can be used for identity theft. But Blust says this latest scam has a new twist. The person uses the 'friends" list to contact intended victims and tell them they have been awarded a large amount of money in a government grant.

The figure of $90,000 has been widely used lately, the victim is told they can collect the money by paying a charge that usually ranges from $750 to $1,000. But once the supposed fee is paid, the scammer is never heard from again.

Blust says people can protect themselves by remembering the word "MAP."

M-if you are contacted and asked for Money (M) by someone you don;t know, it's a scam.

A-if you are contacted and asked for Account information (A), it's a scam.

P-if you are contacted and asked for Personal information (P), it's a scam.

Blust says Facebook users should never accept "friend" requests from someone who is already a Facebook friend. He says people may also want to think about changing Facebook security settings so strangers can't see your photos, profile or friends list

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